Saturday, November 14, 2009

Argentina: Residencia Faiek

UPDATE (11/27/2009): Donations still welcome!

Adam and I spent a week and a half of the month of October in Argentina. There were many purposes to the visit: touring Adam's mission, reuniting with old companions and friends, and getting my FIRST South American passport stamp. The focal point of the trip, however, was to further the long-held dream of helping members of the church in Argentina, specifically in the area of education. This venture started shortly after Adam and I were married when he, along with other like-minded individuals, started a website entitled Bellota a Roble (translation: "Acorn to Oak," the title of which comes from when Elder Melvin J. Ballard dedicated the land of Argentina and prophesied the the church would grow as an acorn to an oak tree). After a few minor projects (a successful series of GMAT classes organized in Buenos Aires to help LDS students seeking entrance to the MBA program at BYU), the time has come to start the next venture.

Education in Argentina proves an interesting dilemma. We had many conversations with people on the topic - people in all walks of life, some members, others not. The consensus is that the system is broken. While Argentina has public universities which are very affordable on paper (a mere 90 pesos - or US$25 - per year for tuition), the professors are often on strike; the class buildings are terribly rundown because there is no money to fix them; and class schedules are assigned such that you could have one class in the morning, another in the afternoon, and a third in the evening. Those facts, combined with a culture where part-time work does not really exist, the economy is depressed, and very few people are wealthy enough to go to school without having to work, make it so that Argentina is a land where only 7% of the population finish with a university education. Within the membership of the church, the numbers are even lower (an estimated 3-4% completing university level studies). LDS students are often coming from families where the parents were not university graduates, so the expectation does not exist that students will complete their studies. In addition, there is increased difficulty if a student has the responsibility of providing for a family.

This is where Residencia Faiek comes in. There is a National University located in Cordoba, where there exists a massive student population. We spent some time in Cordoba, which is a BEAUTIFUL city, complete with a rich history, classic architecture, a plethora of cathedrals, and a strong Institute program. An Argentine named Federico Sanz (from Adam's mission) is doing the groundwork to establish an LDS dorm (or residencia) in Cordoba for students attending the university there. It will start small, with just one apartment of 6 male students all agreeing to abide by essentially the same standards as the BYU Honor Code. While this doesn't solve any of the immediate financial concerns individual students might have (they will be paying rent), these students will provide a support network for each other and will commit to finish their university education as one of the qualifications of participating in the residence.

This residence begins in January with the start of a new academic year. This is fundraising month for the residence. The goal is to raise US$6,000 to cover the costs of acquiring a lease and furnishing the apartment. If you are looking to contribute to a good cause this Christmas season, and you would like to help strengthen the members of the church in Argentina, here is the website you can go to to donate. However, there is some urgency. The donation window is open only until November 21; after that it is time to sign the lease!

As I said, Cordoba is a beautiful city. Here are a few samplings of the sights. And now, a walk down the lanes of Cordoba with Adam and Marie...

All of the rainwater collects in a central canal system.

This is a gorgeous new art museum, formerly a women's prison. It was to open the end of the month, so we didn't get to tour it, but the grounds were beautiful and already it serves as a gathering place in the center of the city.

Directly behind the art museum is the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart)

This is the Manzana Jesuitica (Jesuit Block). Education has long been a central purpose of the city of Cordoba; as long ago as the 16th century, Jesuit priests had set up universities in this area. The buildings now serve as a private high school.

Here's Adam in front of another magnificent iglesia:

This is the residential district by the National University. It is the equivalent of BYU's "south of campus," but much bigger. There are many shops, and it is a lovely, tree-lined area.

Here are Adam and Fede in front of one of the administration building at la Universidad Nacional de Cordoba.

Heidi Sanz (Federico's wife - an amazing woman), Fede, and Adam in front of another university building. (Notice the lack of grass - a trend in South America).

We stopped by the Institute one evening so Adam and Fede could tell the students about Residencia Faiek. They were excited about the opportunity, confirming the interest and need for just such a project. This is the game room where the kids hang out after Institute.

Here is the room where Adam and Fede presented to the students. (Note the web address on the whiteboard.)

Remember how I said Cordoba is a beautiful city? Well, at night it becomes absolutely MAGICAL.

If you made it this far in reading a rather lengthy post, I'm impressed! And here, lest you should forget, is the web address for donations to the Residencia Faiek. You can also follow that link to learn more about the venture and the history behind its name.


Eva McGann said...

Wow what an awesome act of service is being performed for our Argentinian brothers and sisters!! The pictures are beautiful!

Emily said...

Looks like such a fun trip, I'm so gald you all got to go! And, no belly buldge showing whatsoever~you're a lucky one for it being #3!

Marie W said...

I purposely left out the blaring belly bulge photos. :0) The advantages being the author of a blog.

Dave & Kami said...

You had quite the Adventure! Looks so fun and pretty.